As a piece of design, Asus’ new Transformer is – in a word – stunning. It’s difficult to believe that the company managed to stuff all that performance goodness and connectivity into a glass and metal sliver no thicker than a biro.
The Zenbook-like concentric ring pattern subtly etched onto its metal back is a matter of personal taste, but we rather like the effect. And it does help to disguise fingerprints just a little, though these can still be very visible depending on the angle. Naturally, the single-sheet Gorilla glass front also picks up prints and smudges despite its anti-fingerprint coating. But that’s a failing shared by nearly all tablets, and at least Asus is kind enough to include a lint-free cleaning cloth.
Though it doesn’t feel quite as solid as an iPad, build quality on the Prime is still impeccable. The metal back is perfectly smooth despite its pattern, and provides reasonable grip. For purely practical purposes we might have preferred a soft-touch finish like on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet (review coming soon), but then it wouldn’t have looked as premium. Regardless, it’s still a comfortable device to hold thanks to its smoothly tapered edges and light weight.
The Prime is available in two colours: Amethyst Gray or Champagne Gold. We chose the former as it’s the more discreet of the two. Its colour isn’t as garish as some of the press shots might have led you to believe, being closer to dark grey than purple. Still, despite offering something different from the crowd and making for a vast improvement over the nondescript brown of the original Transformer, we can’t help but wish Asus had stuck to the more traditional black or silver choices. Mind you, it says a lot for a tablet if its choice of colours is our only (minor) gripe.
The new dock, meanwhile, has been slimmed down to match the tablet, meaning there’s no way you’ll be able to use the Prime with your old dock even though they share the same connector – trust us, we tried. As with the tablet, build quality is superb and the docking process is as easy as clicking it in. When you want to disconnect the two, simply press the release switch and they come apart just as effortlessly. When the two parts are attached they form a harmonious whole that most people wouldn’t tell apart from a ‘proper’ ultraportable laptop like the 11in MacBook Air.